Posts Tagged ‘suburra’

Netflix Turned a Creative Corner In 2017 With Originals Like ‘Dark,’ ‘Suburra’ and ‘The Punisher’

January 2, 2018

Call it the Lilyhammer of the Gods.

In February 2012, Netflix established its creative model right out of the gate. Its first original show, Lilyhammer, starred “Little” Steven Van Zant, fresh from playing a mobster on The Sopranos…as a mobster, albeit one who’s relocated to Norway for witness-protection purposes.

The road from Lilyhammer‘s quirky Sopranos rehash to Stranger Things‘ unabashed theft from ’80s pop-culture staples is not a particularly long one. All that changed was the company’s self-identification as a creator of original content rather than an online video store, and its subsequent accumulation of user data and development of a predictive algorithm to deliver the goods.

Many of the network’s original series —”original” being a relative term— speak to this desire to please the crowd with things that have already pleased them. Why have only one off-beat comedy about the mildly crazy lives of young people set in New York (Master of None), for example, when you can also have one in Chicago (Easy) and Los Angeles (Love) as well? It’s too bad Donald Glover titled his show Atlanta and took it to FX, or else I’m sure Netflix would have something on the docket for that youth-culture mecca as well. In a more traditional move, reboots are common, from the campy (Fuller House) to the acclaimed (One Day at a Time). And that little row of Netflix Original rectangles contains enough grim-visaged cops, crooks, and killers to look like a photo array you’d use to identify suspects in the world’s most focus-grouped crime.

Which is what makes shows like DarkThe Punisher, and Suburra: Blood on Rome stand out. From the outside, these 2017 debuts seem like status-quo programming. But each veered of the course they could have cruised down effortlessly, taking creative risks that yielded entertaining and provocative results.

Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, the third time it’s enemy action: Over at Decider I wrote about the possibility that Dark, The Punisher, and Suburra represent a creative turning point for Netflix, in which the sheer volume of material the network puts out is now enabling some shows to complicate and interrogate their genre elements rather than serving them up straight.

“Suburra: Blood on Rome” thoughts, Season One, Episode Ten: “Call It Sleep”

October 20, 2017

Honestly, it’s a minor miracle that a finale so clearly designed to set up a second season, let alone lead to the feature film for which the whole affair serves as a prequel, is this rich and challenging. But Suburra has been punching above its weight class from the jump. With any luck, this gorgeous, big-hearted, marvelously acted gangster story will find the word-of-mouth audience it deserves. Take a bow, you crazy kids. You’ve earned it.

I reviewed the season finale of Suburra: Blood on Rome for Decider. Man was this thing a hoot!

“Suburra: Blood on Rome” thoughts, Season One, Episode Nine: “Pitch Black”

October 20, 2017

“Pitch Black,” the penultimate episode of the show’s first season, cements my already firm belief that this is the best crime show Netflix has done by a mile. When you see the kinds of emotional climaxes Suburra can deliver for its main characters despite the fact that nearly all of them are likeable, even lovable, you have to wonder if it’s working so well because nearly all of them are likeable, even lovable, and not despite it at all.

This runs counter to the approach of nearly every post–Breaking Bad crime thriller on television. The best ones, like Breaking Bad itself, work hard to make their characters empathetic on some level, but they want you to think “christ, what a fucking bastard” as often as possible. The mediocre-to-shitty ones don’t have the depth to do empathy, so you wind up with a lot of miserable assholes grimacing all the time between horrible murders. Aureliano, Spadino, and Lele have all done their fair share of frowning and yelling and crying, but any single one of them has visibly enjoyed themselves on screen — not sociopathically, at the expense of others, but simply delighting in one another’s company — more than the equivalent players on every other Netflix crime saga combined. That gives Suburra a leg up on even its relatively solid sister series, like Ozark or Narcos or even Daredevil. These people have a lust for life, dammit, which gives their life and death struggles an irresistible magnetic charge.

I reviewed episode nine of Suburra: Blood on Rome for Decider. I’m telling you folks, whatever other Netflix show you’re watching, you’ll have a better time watching this one, I promise.

“Suburra: Blood on Rome” thoughts, Season One, Episode Eight: “A New Man”

October 19, 2017

Well, that was fast. As predicted, Suburra: Blood on Rome’s relatively placid seventh episode was just the calm before the storm. “A New Man,” its eighth installment, ends the breather by piling up the betrayals, revelations, and patricide so high that you practically need to blackmail the Vatican for a building permit. We’re getting close to the end now, and it shows.

I reviewed episode eight of Suburra: Blood on Rome for Decider. This show fuckin’ rules.

“Suburra: Blood on Rome” thoughts, Season One, Episode Seven: “Last Customer”

October 17, 2017

Episode seven in fact marks a significant slowdown in the heretofore breakneck speed of the story. A calm before the storm? Perhaps. Whatever the case, it’s more about consolidating the status quo than shaking things up….That’s not to say that it’s boring. Come on, this is Suburra—it doesn’t do boring.

Not a ton to say about episode seven of Suburra: Blood on Rome, which I reviewed for Decider. But the review contains some gifs that’ll show you what I mean about how the show’s visual component makes it feel alive even in a breather of an episode like this one.

“Suburra: Blood on Rome,” Season One, Episode Six: “Garlic, Oil, and Chili Pepper”

October 16, 2017

You’re not watching Suburra to find out who comes out on top of this particular dirty deal; let’s face it, the show only gives you rooting interest in the young guns….Rather, you’re watching Suburra just to watch it — to see three incredibly handsome dudes try to pull one over on the world in a series of striking shot compositions across the length and breadth of the Eternal City.

I reviewed the sixth episode of Suburra: Blood on Rome, which you should probably be watching instead of whatever other Netflix show you’re watching, for Decider.

“Suburra: Blood on Rome” thoughts, Season One, Episode Five: “She Wolf”

October 14, 2017

At the risk of constructing an inelegant metaphor, what do you do when you it a pothole in your plot? Here’s one strategy: Put the pedal to the metal and just drive right the hell on. That’s the approach adopted by Suburra: Blood on Rome.

I reviewed episode 5 of Suburra: Blood on Rome for Decider. My concerns about the previous episode evaporated almost instantly.

“Suburra: Blood on Rome” thoughts, Season One, Episode Three: “Rabid Dogs”

October 14, 2017

I believe it Chekhov who said that if you introduce a dog in the first episode, you have to shoot it by the third.

I reviewed episode three of Suburra, which is a lot of fun, for Decider.

“Suburra: Blood on Rome” thoughts, Season One, Episode Two: “Plebes and Patricians”

October 9, 2017

When I reviewed the series premiere of Suburra: Blood on Rome the other day I made a big deal about how its complicated organized-crime narrative’s many moving parts would probably crowd out the show’s potential with the need to burn through as much plot per episode as possible. There’s a professional reason for that. When you review TV shows for a living you’re not just reviewing the show in question, no matter how hard you try to make that happen — you’re reviewing it against other shows of its kind, and other shows not of its kind, and your overall understanding of how shows work generally. The Netflix release model, which basically opens up a spigot and blasts “Because you watched…” algorithms directly into your piehole, makes dealing with this all the more difficult. If the network is shoving shows down your gullet based on what it thinks you think about other shows, how can you not think about them yourself?

Folks, I goofed. But hey, it happens! I’ll try not to beat myself up about it.

As far as I can tell from its second installment, “Plebes and Patricians,” Suburra rules. When Netflix crime shows from Ozark Season One to Narcos Season Two dutifully but unimaginatively hit genre notes in their first few episodes, keeping you wishing and hoping for a payoff down the line, this fuckin’ thing delivers straight out the gate.

And yeah, I see the contradiction here. After admitting that comparing Suburra to other shows clouded my judgment after the pilot, I’m changing my tune based on…comparing Suburra to other shows. Oh well! As a critic, I’m in the liking-things business — that’s honestly how I see it, which is what makes middling work such a bummer for me. (Though it can be fun to write about.) If I’m going to err, I’d rather err on the side of enthusiasm. Not the kind of enthusiasm that inflates everything into a masterpiece or a life-lesson dispenser — that’s a problem of its own — but the “wheeeeeee, this is fun!” kind. Suburra serves that up by the bucketload.

The thing about roller-coaster rides is that if everything feels weightless, there’s no ride worth taking. You need to feel the weight of the car as you take the plunge, and the sturdiness of the track as it shakes beneath you. I think that’s where Suburra is distinguishing itself most.

Enjoying the hell out of Suburra at the moment. Here’s my review of the second episode for Decider.

“Suburra: Blood on Rome” thoughts, Season One, Episode One: “21 Days”

October 6, 2017

The first thing you notice about Suburra: Blood on RomeNetflix’s new Italian crime drama, is…well, let’s be frank here. It’s the gigantic coke-fueled priest orgy.

The second thing you notice is that the men on the show are incredibly handsome.

I’m covering Suburra for Decider, starting with this review of the series premiere. The cast is stunning and the score, by Loscil, is lush like little else on TV right now. Worth a look!